Denisovans, Neandertals, Archaics

Denisovans & Neandertals

The 2010 discoveries of Denisovans, the 2012 findings of archaic African DNA, and the additional 2012 genetic sequencing of Denisovans are part of a longer trajectory dating to the discovery of fossil Neandertals. Ever since the fossil Neandertal discoveries in the 19th century, debates have raged about who they were. Were Neandertals direct ancestors to modern humans? A completely different species? Or a sub-species, like a race? And now what should we do with the Denisovans?

Anthropology can now confidently report that Neandertals, Denisovans, and others labelled archaic are in fact an interbreeding part of the modern human lineage. We are the same species. There has been extensive admixture across modern humans for tens of thousands of years, and at least some admixture across several archaic groups. Neandertals, Denisovans, and other archaics may be the best example of a true human race or sub-species. They are also fully part of the human lineage, with almost all contemporary humans showing genetic admixture with archaics in our genetic signatures.

Findings published in July 2017 may help resolve some of the puzzles that the 2010-2012 discoveries raised. As Carl Zimmer reports in the New York Times:

The common ancestors of Neanderthals and Denisovans spread across Europe and Asia over half a million years ago. Gradually the eastern and western populations parted ways, genetically speaking.
In the east, they became Denisovans. In the west, they became Neanderthals. The 430,000-year-old fossils at Sima de los Huesos–Neanderthals with Denisovanlike genes–capture the early stage of that split.
At some point before 270,000 years ago, African humans closely related to us moved into Europe and interbred with Neanderthals. Their DNA entered the Neanderthal gene pool. (In Neanderthal DNA, Signs of a Mysterious Human Migration; see also the finds of Homo sapiens in Morocco which helped set the stage for these earlier dates.)

Before the Replacement Hypothesis

The most recent findings can help return anthropology to the work done prior to the rise of the replacement hypothesis in 1987-2010. During these decades, researchers increasingly portrayed Neandertals as a completely separate species, an evolutionary dead-end with little or no interbreeding (see section on More Mothers than Mitochondrial Eve). This reached a crescendo in 2007, as prominent anthropologist and paleontologist Ian Tattersall pronounced in the Journal of Anthropological Sciences:

Interestingly, the new Neanderthal skeletal reconstruction . . . suggest[s] that differences in gait existed between Neanderthals and modern humans. In particular, the very broad and short waist would have imparted a “stiffness” to Neanderthal movement that would have made them cut a very distinctive figure on the landscape. The consequent distinctive behavioral signal further reduces the probability that the two kinds of hominid would have shared any elements of a specific mate recognition system, and that any biologically significant level of gene exchange ever occurred between them. (Neanderthals, Homo sapiens, and the question of species in paleoanthropology, 144)

I’ll admit to some childish laughter when we read this in class. The thought of modern humans being turned off by the stiff gait of the Neandertals is pretty funny stuff. It is also wrong. Current studies show genetically significant interbreeding with Neandertals, Denisovans, and possibly other archaics did occur. Milford Wolpoff’s idea that Neandertals should be considered a subspecies or race of humans seems closer to the truth (Wolpoff “How Neandertals inform human variation,” 2009). Neandertals are distinctive, so distinctive that many would say they were a separate species. Denisovans seem to be in a similar position. These are what races would really look like, not like the relatively minor differences observed in contemporary humans (see section Race Reconciled Re-Debunks Race).

Anthropology & Species Classifications

Tattersall’s article opens the larger question of species classification:

How to apportion the large mass of hominid fossils now known into biologically meaningful units has been debated endlessly, and seems set to splinter paleoanthropology for years to come. The negative consequences of this lack of consensus are severe . . . This is bad enough among colleagues . . . but it is nothing short of disastrous when it comes to communicating our science to the public that supports us. (2007:139)

Tattersall is correct about this potentially disastrous communication. But his answer–to say species are like “individuals” and knowing what a species entails is like how judges “claim to know pornography when they see it even if they cannot satisfactorily define it” (2007:140)–may perhaps be even more disastrous than splintered debate.

There is a better way. “Thus, we think formally of a species in terms of reproductive compatibility, with the trait-list as helpful identifiers, rather than as a set of organisms that share a particular suite of attributes” (Marks 2009:237-238).

Anthropology should go beyond the endless definitional debates to show porous species boundaries. There is really no harm in stressing interaction and admixture within and across species lines, welcoming Neandertals and Denisovans into the human family. That’s just part of anthropology as a generous and comparative inquiry. And the public is actually quite interested in these kinds of crossings.

Anthropology should work to undefine speciesClick To Tweet
Anthropology needs to stress how it is impossible to define species characteristics outside of an environmental context. “There is no formal, species-specific ground-plan hovering in the background, immune from time and change” (Ingold 2006:263). Or, “If evolution has taught us anything, one might think, it is that there is no essence of humanity, no fixed or final form” (Proctor 2003:220).

There are several hopeful signs:

a) Multispecies

A 2010 special issue of Cultural Anthropology called The Emergence of Multispecies Ethnography (Kirksey and Helmreich 2010). As a follow-up, the 2010 American Anthropological Association Meetings featured a “Multispecies Salon.” Other anthropologists have stressed interspecies interaction, such as Insectopedia by Hugh Raffles (2011), Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection by Anna Tsing (2005), and the edited volume by Rebecca Cassidy and Molly Mullin, Where the Wild Things Are Now (2007). Such multispecies interactions set a framework for fuller inclusion of Neandertals and Denisovans.

b) Hybridization and Admixture

A 2010 article on species hybridization reports:

It turns out that hybridization among distinct species is not so rare. Some biologists estimate that as many as 10 percent of animal species and up to 25 percent of plant species may occasionally breed with another species. . . .
The discovery of hybrid species and the detection of past hybridizations are forcing biologists to reshape their picture of species as independent units. The barriers between species are not necessarily vast, unbridgeable chasms; sometimes they get crossed with marvelous results. (Carroll 2010, Hybrids May Thrive Where Parents Fear to Tread)

The author, Sean B. Carroll is at the forefront of the Evo-Devo biology discussed in the section Human Nature and Anthropology.

c) Canis soupus

There is the recognition that dogs, coyotes, and wolves are all part of one big species. “No wonder, then, that interactions among these species have led to a genetic mess that researchers sometimes refer to as ‘Canis soupus’” (Yoon 2010). That one of the most beloved household pets is species undefined can help foster a practical appreciation for why we need to undefine species.

d) Paleoanthropologists too

Discoveries of Denisovans and Neandertal admixture may be causing movement within the paleoanthropological community. John Hawks discussed this in 2011 with Is the Biological Species Concept a “minority view”? By 2017, there was even more evidence, and Hawks returned to write Arguing about species: Is it evidence, or ego?

I can’t help but feel that we are standing at a special moment in the history of paleoanthropology. New data give us the opportunity to make progress on old areas of disagreement about species and phylogeny. We have to start by taking what we now know about the later Pleistocene, and seriously appling these lessons to earlier periods of human evolution. Our assumptions about the past really are changing.

Denisovans and Their Discontents

Still, there have been some problematic aspects to welcoming Neandertals and Denisovans into the human family. Several very wrongheaded interpretations of Denisovans, Neandertals, and archaic admixture have emerged. Because the dominant paradigm has been the replacement hypothesis rather than gene flow across a wide range, contributions from Neandertals and Denisovans are seen as affecting only specific peoples. Since most analyses are carried out in genetic language within a society convinced of genetic determinism, the Neandertal contribution is seen as adding a set of genetic resources other groups do not share.

Typically, these wrongheaded interpretations come from the reporting of Nicholas Wade. Wade’s prominent 2010 reporting put in place a view that “Neanderthals interbred only with non-Africans, the people who left Africa, which would mean that non-Africans drew from a second gene pool not available to Africans” (Signs of Neanderthals Mating With Humans). And in 2012, Wade still misrepresents admixture as “interracial marriage“!

I asked Keith Hunley, one of the editors of Race Reconciled for insight. I am grateful for his clarifications.

First, Hunley notes that even with Neandertal admixture for non-Africans–and admixture evidence with Denisovans–the greatest genetic diversity is still found within sub-Saharan Africa. This is similar to what John Hawks describes on his blog: “Africans are a lot more diverse than other populations, and this diversity itself does reflect the dynamics of the ancient African population. The Neandertals aren’t so different from that pattern that now still exists within Africa–they’re extending the notion that ‘modern’ is something that’s been evolving for a long time” (2010). And it seems the 2012 findings are a confirmation of complex population structures, migrations, back-migrations, and admixture as a rule, not an isolated event.

Second, only a tiny portion of this variation is unique to non-Africans. It has taken a lot of effort and extremely sophisticated analysis to even find this non-African variation. At least some of these analyses are of “neutral genetic variation,” which does not contribute to phenotype (Hunley, personal communication 2010).

Third, people migrated back to Africa, carrying the diversity with them, and it would also exist among contemporary peoples of African descent living in Europe or the Americas. This is also supported by Hawks: “Do living Africans have Neandertal ancestry, too? . . . We know that the answer is nonzero, because Africa has received immigrants from other parts of the world during historic times. The same genetic patterns that reflect population contacts up and down the East African coast, and across the Sahara into West Africa, show the possible conduits for the flow of Neandertal-derived genes into African populations” (2010).

Finally, it is worth noting how much the human genome has been changing since the time of Neandertals and Denisovans. This is a little-known feature that is only now starting to receive more attention. As Hawks ends his “Neandertals Live!” post: “In adaptive terms, it is really true–we’re more different from early ‘modern’ humans today, than they were from Neandertals. Possibly many times more different” (2010).

Sadly, racist interpretations of Neandertals, Denisovans, and archaic admixture are already circulating. The claim is the Neandertal admixture helped non-Africans become more “advanced” whereas Denisovans were a step toward lower IQs. This kind of thinking can derive from statements like the one in the Sean B. Carroll article on hybridization: “It now appears that 1 percent to 4 percent of the DNA sequence of Europeans and Asians, but not Africans, was contributed by Neanderthals mixing with Homo sapiens, perhaps in the Middle East 50,000 to 80,000 years ago. It is possible that some Neanderthal versions of genes enabled modern humans to adapt to new climates and habitats” (2010). This statement had innocent intentions, but commenters need to understand the extent of entrenched racism, combined with a public steeped in genetic determinism–for a 2012 follow up, see Denisovan Brains, Science, Media, Anthropology.

Hunley’s comments, with back-up from Hawks, are a very smart and necessary rejoinder to some press portrayals of Neandertals and Denisovans. They provide a guideline for what the public needs to hear when presenting these studies. It is important for anthropologists to remember the press is not a place to play out debates between competing scientific hypotheses. Most people do not know the details of any competing hypotheses–what we need are statements about what happened and implications for contemporary human populations.

Words matter, and it is important to use them carefully. Consider, for example, the multiply co-authored article “Why not the Neandertals?” This 2004 article was certainly an interesting and important statement at a time when the out-of-Africa replacement hypothesis had multiregionalism on the run. However, the final two sentences are very strange: “For us Europeans, the Neandertal debate is nearing resolution and the conclusion is that they are one of us. Recognizing this is a key step in the process of understanding how and why we became different” (Wolpoff et al. 2004:538).

First, who are “us Europeans” exactly? There are nine co-authors listed in the paper, all affiliated with universities in the U.S. Are they saying all the co-authors are a European us? Or targeting European readers? And while becoming “different” is not necessarily a good thing, they must understand–especially if they are all European–that the context of European difference in world history has been one of asserting superiority and claiming the mantle of civilization. Such sentences undermine the goodwill the multiregional hypothesis might have generated.

Fortunately, at least in the latest portrayal of Neandertal interbreeding, “the Leipzig scientists assert that the interbreeding did not occur in Europe but in the Middle East and at a much earlier period, some 100,000 to 60,000 years ago, before the modern human populations of Europe and East Asia split” (Wade 2010). Unlike Wade, I would not emphasize a European and East Asia split–see It’s admixture all the way down–but at least this means we can stop looking to Neandertals as the source of exclusively European difference.

So, let us accept Neandertals, Denisovans, and other so-called archaics as members of the human species, perhaps as a true sub-species or race. But let’s retain the beauty of the original multiregional model proposed by Franz Weidenreich, with human populations “being interconnected by nearly continuous gene flow throughout the Pleistocene, with the gene flow being of sufficient magnitude such that the human continental populations define an intertwined trellis. There is no tree of human populations of any sort in Weidenreich’s figure” (Templeton, Genetics and Recent Human Evolution, 2007:1509).

This last point brings up the idea of metaphors and how we should represent human evolution–see blog-post The Tangled Bank and the blog-post by Jonathan Marks, Clades versus Rhizomes: “I think human evolution is strongly rhizotic.” Indeed, the rhizome model is strikingly similar to the Weidenreich’s intertwined trellis. I was interested to see Dienekes Anthropology blog take up the same issue in the 2012 blog-post Admixture matters: “It’s time to give up trees and embrace networks!” It seems when everyone is dropping the tree taxonomies and embracing networks (or maybe even rhizomes?), we are in a new place to appreciate the complexity of human becoming, and More Mothers than Mitochondrial Eve.

Next: 1.12 – More Mothers than Mitochondrial Eve

Previous: 1.10 – Stone Tools for 2.5 million years

To cite: Antrosio, Jason. 2011. “Denisovans, Neandertals, Archaics as Human Races.” Living Anthropologically website, First posted 2 June 2011. Revised 8 January 2018.

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  • Noelani Browne

    The book states that anatomically modern human over about 20,000 years of ‘refinement’ became “smaller and less robust” (L&S:146) due to specific niche construction. Over that 20,000 years, the environment must have changed as well, making certain features of the previously described Neandertal undesirable for survival.

    • Hi Lani, thank you for the comment. Indeed, we moderns are considerably “smaller and less robust,” with apparently little hope of returning.

    • Mattias Dahlström

      An interesting study would be to take DNA samples from a Basque or Georgian rugby team (especially the front row) and check if there is a increase in Neanderthal genome compared to the population as a whole!

  • Martha Catherine

    I was not quite clear as to whether or not Neanderthals were in fact a species unto themselves as everything I had been told was pretty mixed up.This article cleared it up. Connected but not the same, similar but not completely opposite.

    • Hi Martha, indeed, you make it sound wonderfully cleared up and simple!

  • Zak Aldridge

    I was intrigued by the discussion on whether or not Neandertals were cannibals. The evidence that suggested this – they “cut away muscles and split bones to extract marrow” (LS: 145) for consumption – was the same evidence cited by Jonathan Marks as a potential mortuary ritual. Marks explained that Neandertals that ate each other would appear decidedly nonhuman, but Neandertals that had a ritualistic system of “defleshing the dead” would appear “symbolically human” (LS: 145). Choosing either explanation for the evidence, of course, does not discount them as close relatives to modern humans.

    • Hi Zak, great comment. Indeed, the mortuary rituals that look like cannibalism are surprisingly widespread. We had a bit of an interesting discussion on this at the Jonathan Marks Templeton Colloquium on The Origin of Religion, now forever preserved on YouTube.

    • Clinton Hall

      The last ice age ended 20,000 years ago. Living conditions in Europe and Asia were extremely harsh. The fact that some humans practiced cannibalism is not surprising. Survivors of the 1972 Andes flight disaster participated in cannibalism to survive. Does this mean all of us living today are cannibals? It’s not surprising what measures humans will go to survive when suffering starvation. Should Neanderthals be labeled as cannibals because some questionable evidence was found at one of their remain sites? What about evidence that some groups of pacific islanders practiced cannibalism? Should we label all pacific islanders cannibals? The Neanderthal race is no more cannibals than any race alive today.

      • ac05jn

        false. the last ice age hasn’t ended. “Quaternary glaciation, also known as the Pleistocene glaciation or the current ice age”

  • Brittany Mackey

    The emergence of modern homo sapiens was shown on a morphological analysis, which stated that the modern Homo sapiens evolved from Homo Erectus only once (LS:138). During this period of transitioning in Africa, the context mentions that it took tens of thousands of years for the change for Archaic Homo sapiens to slowly change into modern Homo sapiens (LS:138). The niche construction that occurred could of slowly transformed throughout their environment could of changed one species into a different species, simply because of the way they adapted to the environment.

    The Neandertals were the species that I found most engaging because there skeletons are not much different than modern human beings. Just by looking at a recent reconstruction on a Neandertal skeleton, it looks almost exactly like a human skeleton (LS:142). I also find them interesting because there is little evidence that shows that Neandertals could of be cannibals. “In Spain, where butchered human bones were found together in 800.000-year-old deposits associated with H. antecessor”, gives available facts that they could of ate each other (LS:145).

    -Brittany Mackey

    • Hi Brittany, thank you–lots of good stuff in this comment, and one part I would like to draw attention to is the emergence of modern characteristics in Africa: as important as Denisovans and Neandertals may have been, Africa is the true cradle of humanity. See More mothers than Mitochondrial Eve for more discussion.

    • Clinton Hall

      Latest studies, along with strong evidence suggest the common ancestor to Neanderthal, Home sapiens, and Denisovan, is Homo heidelbergensis. As for H. antecessor, the evidence points to possible interbreeding with H. heidelbergensis which then passed the mtDNA on to the Denisovans and Neanderthals. As for your butchered “human” bones found, I believe you meant hominin unless Wikipedia got that wrong as well. Seems National Geographic posted the story you are referring to and really messed it up. There seem to be two major problems with this information. First, Neanderthal were not even around 800,000 years ago as they are suggesting. And second, the butchered human bones you are referring to are actually hominin remains belonging to Homo antecessor, a much earlier ancestor to humans. It’s actually kind of funny how information can get picked up from sites we think are credible, like National Geographic, and get so twisted up they end up as nothing short of pure fiction. Oh, and of course, it is then posted in Wikipedia. It’s always good to check your sources.

      • waldemar2010

        “As for H. antecessor, the evidence points to possible interbreeding with
        H. Heidelbergensis which then passed the mtDNA on to the Denisovans and

        That is merely a suggestion put up by Chris Stringer. A very interesting one, but the only thing we know is that among Sima the Huesos samples one mtDNA popped up that was more closely related to Denisovans than to Neanderthals. Now, Sima the Huesos samples were considered either Homo Heidelbergenis or very early Neanderthal. Very recently a presentation by Svante Paabo showed that sequenced autosomal DNA showed that Sima the Huesos samples were clearly on the Neanderthal branch.

        Which would mean either Homo Heidelbergensis is not ancestral to Denisova, Neanderthal and Anatomical Modern Humans or the split between them is far earlier than everybody’s earliest estimation.

        • Clinton Hall

          Problem is you are simply quoting inaccurate information pieced together and posted by a correspondence writer and not by published works. This is how false information is circulated. I already got national geographic to pull their posted story making the jump to Neanderthal. I have said this to others but maybe you will be willing to consider this advice as well, Try finding your information from published works. This means accredited scientific journals related to anthropology and paleontology and not just blogs and articles found on the internet. My main reason for my reply to Brittany, was to point out the inaccurate information posted in the article she based her comment on. Your reply is based off the same type of information based off non published speculation and hearsay.

          • waldemar2010

            And this from a man that suggests haplogroup R is Neanderthal because something like that circulated on forums.

          • waldemar2010

            “I already got national geographic to pull their posted story making the jump to Neanderthal.”

            Give Svante Paabo a call too. He keeps making these silly claims on seminars.

    • Groundswell

      “Could of”?
      Call me a pendant, Britney, but …

      • rhewitt

        A pendant? Really?

        • Groundswell

          Not really, rhewitt.
          It’s an old joke. I found it in a cave. ( :

  • Valerie Bourque

    Why are you all spelling Neanderthal incorrectly? In all the literature I’ve read it has never been spelled Neandertal, except here. Why not just spell it correctly? Seriously. Oh lord, I see, some of you can’t use homophones correctly either so that explains it. Brittany, “could HAVE” not “could OF.” Obviously you got that from how it sounds when someone uses the conjunction “could’ve” which is short for “could have.” Can you not recognize when you used “of” that it just didn’t fit? Their is possessive meaning belonging to and there is location like where something can be found. This is elementary stuff. Generally when spell and grammar check underline your words it is an indication they are incorrect. Please do not pretend to be intelligent.

    • KevinG.

      Well, you could “of” let that one go – or are you just going “Neanderthal” on us? 😉

    • Pepper

      *there is, not their is. Yeesh. This is elementary stuff.

      • Sulameon Jodul Sages

        Before you berate someone for their “elementary stuff,” make sure you understand exactly what they’re saying. When Valerie wrote “Their is,” “Their” was the object of the sentence.

    • Hi Valerie, thank you for the comment. While I won’t question the grammar issues, the spelling of Neandertal has been subject to some debate. The naming of the Neandertal, where some of the first findings were made, has been subject to change in orthography. Although this does not apparently affect the scientific names, some of my best sources, such as Why not the Neandertals? and the highly-respected John Hawks use Neandertal.

      • Heather Rendall

        18th century German spelled ( or spelt!) the sound ‘t’ as ‘th’. You can check this easily by glancing at credits of American programmes / films where surnames originating in Germany still use ‘th’ instead of ‘t’. The most famous example being Rothschild – which we, in our ignorance, have separated out as Roths child instead of its original meaning Roth schild = red shield ‘roth’ – now ‘rot’ in German for ‘red’. Also see Goethe ; I have only once seen this spelt in German as Göte and that was on a 19th C print.

        ‘Thal ‘ was the original spelling for the word ‘valley’ now written as ‘Tal’. So the valley of the Neander river was known as Neanderthal in the 19th and early 19th century. In the 19th C the Great Spelling Revision (1838??) and umlauts introduced instead of adding an ‘e’ to the vowel; and ‘th’ was reduced to ‘t’ – though not always
        ‘Theater’ is still spelt like that and pronounced Tey ater.

        So both Neanderthal and Neandertal are correct spellings but there is only ONE correct pronunciation and that is as a ‘t’ and not as a ‘th’

        And would all those Anthonys please not, the same applies to their name.
        AnTony and not anTHony

  • waldemar2010

    There is clear evidence that Neanderthals and AMH are different *species*. Different species do interbreed (See mules) but the offspring suffers fertility issues. Considering the fact that absolutely no Neanderthal Y-DNA of mtDNA has emerged among modern humans, and taking into account that Neanderthals apparently were patrilocal, one can assume that at least male offspring was infertile. A finding that is supported by the fact that the X chromosome has far fewer Neanderthal genes than elsewhere in the genome.

    • waldemar2010

      Furthermore, the person that found this avoidance of the X chromosome by Neanderthal genes – Pontus Skoglund – extensively tried to find if any known modern human population showed similar avoidance. It didn’t. That makes it clear that there is a substantial difference between all modern humans and Neanderthals. Neanderthals are a different species, not a different race.

      • Clinton Hall

        I recommend avoiding the temptation to post information obtained from Wikipedia. It is highly inaccurate and very much disliked by most professionals. If you were one of my students I would have to fail you for using such an in accurate source. Try researching scientific journals and published works in the future.

        • waldemar2010
          • Clinton Hall

            Check your source, Pontus Skoglund is in no way affiliated with that paper. Nor does that paper support your findings in any way at all. Once again, you are twisting findings to support your on conclusions.

          • waldemar2010

            That paper – indeed Skoglund was not a co-author – is very clear: Neanderthal admixture shuns the X chromosome. We know that this happens when two species interbreed. It is called Haldane’s rule:'s_rule

            Mind you, I post Wiki links the way they should be used. To explain a principle.

    • Clinton Hall

      One of the earliest modern human remains, named Oases 1, estimated to be 37,000 – 42,000 years has 6 – 9% of his genome derived from Neanderthals. Oases 1 did not share more allelel with later European than with eastern Asians. This suggest that the Oases population did not contribute substantially to the later population in Europe. Keep in mind, this time period happens to coincide with the harshest period of the Pleistocene ice age. Northern Europe was covered by an ice cap and south Africa was isolated by a tropical extreme desert covering all of the north African continent. These extreme climate patterns would have limited contact between various groups. I also recommend you read this:

      There are many reasons why the Y-DNA and mtDNA from Neanderthal samples have not been matched to living humans at this time. However, the fact that the DNA of Europeans is more similar to Neanderthal DNA than to Africans clearly dismisses the notion of separate species.

      What you are really saying, by your logic, is since we can’t identify any living descendants to this particular individual, it must not be human. Also, some of the information you posted is false. Perhaps you found this on the web somewhere but to this date, the Neanderthal Y chromosome is yet to be decoded. Just recently, attempts were made using a DNA sample found in the Denisova caves. Results from early test show the DNA belonging to haplogroup R. Reason for no mtDNA being detected yet is easily explained due to the very small numbers of Neanderthal, as few as 3,000 breeding adults. It is most likely that the mtDNA was simply lost through dilution over many generations as well as due to genetic drift.

      Furthermore, recent studies have found approximately 30% of the complete Neanderthal genome in a test pool of 1000 people. On average, each person carried 1 – 4% of the Neanderthal genome but the segments varied person to person. Sriram Sankararaman’s analysis determined that these Neanderthal DNA chunks have been carried in humans for 37,000 – 86,000 years. This rules out any possibilities of simply being shared genes from a common ancestor (Homo. heidelbergenses).
      As for your argument concerning the X chromosome, that conclusion was dismissed due to the more extensive DNA testing done that supports the conclusion that the procreation problems were due to inbreeding.
      Perhaps if Neanderthal and African humans had stayed segregated for another 30,000 years, Neanderthals and African humans would have completely evolved into separate species. But the fact is, these two groups that had started to diverge, reunited in Europe and Asia and converged back into a single people along with the Denisovans. It’s really no different than what’s going on today with the intermixing of different races.
      Oh, as for Pontus Skoglund “extensively” trying… How does testing a single individual from 5 different races qualify as extensive? Who knows, maybe one day the poor guy will actually get a paper published but until then, best to not site unpublished work.

      • waldemar2010

        Good Grief. This is a very flawed response.
        Wrt the haplogroup R claim:

        The only place I can find the claim that Neanderthal Y-DNA was R is forums, where it is extensively debunked. The reason we know that all Y-DNA is of non-neanderthal human origin comes from the simple reason that all haplogroups known are mutation *supplements* on haplogroup A00 (A-perry). So every haplogroup contains unique mutations UPON the father group, which appears in Africa among people without Neanderthal admixture. That basically rules out that human Y-DNA is derived from Neanderthals.

        Wrt my argument concerning the X chromosome.

        You state “that conclusion was dismissed due to the more extensive DNA testing done that supports the conclusion that the procreation problems were due to inbreeding”

        No it wasn’t. The papers you refer to are these, neither refutes the shunning of X chromosomes. They simply state that neanderthals suffered from genetic unfitness.

        The latter actually confirms it:

        “We find that there are systematically lower levels of initial
        introgression on the X chromosome, a finding consistent with a strong
        sex bias in the initial matings between the populations.”

        A thing that might be explained by male infertility. A known issue with a large number of hybrids.

        Wrt Oase 1

        Oase 1 indeed looks like it is clearly different from Europeans. It has another interesting feature: Apart from the recent Neanderthal admixture it has far more neanderthal admixture *over* the 1-4% that we all have, and that Ust’Ishim and K14 have. Now, K14, another European sample from the same time frame as Oase 1, DOES show have deep affinity with Europeans, as D-stats and F3 stats clearly show. The K14 paper has all the info you need [1]. The Oase 1 paper [2] on the other hand has a very interesting thing: Oase 1 may be equidistant to ancient hunter-gatherers and asians, Ust’ Ishim is that as well. But whenever given the choice in D-stats Ust’Ishim will shun Oase1 but choose anyone else. (see referred paper). That means Oase1 didn’t leave much genetic influence in current day populations, whereas Ust’Ishim did, but was not diversified into either east-asians or west-eurasians yet.



        The demise of the Oase 1 culture could be another piece of evidence that hybrids suffered from fertility issues.

        Wrt the ice age

        The LGM was not 40.000 years ago but 20.000 years ago. As the recent Bishon sample shows K14’s relatives came out from those cold spells. 40.000 years ago there was a relatively less extreme period, called the Hengelo interstadial.

        The best is this: “Who knows, maybe one day the poor guy will actually get a paper published but until then, best to not site unpublished work.”

        Pontus Skoglund is a high profile publisher of paleogenetic papers. He is a co-author of the Oase 1 genome paper you appear to refer to. Perhaps you didn’t know. How could you? Wikipedia hasn’t got an article on him.

        • Clinton Hall

          Your quoting actual research but mixing it with your own delusions. Shame on you. “Lower levels of integration on the X chromosome”. Then you add your own twist, “A thing that might be explained my low fertility. A known issue with a large number of hybrids”. They never made that jump. You mis quoted their research to feed your own argument.

          • waldemar2010

            You state: Then you add your own twist, “A thing that might be explained my low
            fertility. A known issue with a large number of hybrids”.

            True. I made that thought.

            You state: They never
            made that jump.

            “Suggesting a strong sex bias in the initial matings between the populations..” That line. Read it again. They didn’t “make that jump”, they point to Sriram Sankararaman et al.

            You stated: You misquoted their research to feed your own argument.

            No. I *quoted* their paper to show you that this statement you made is false: “more extensive DNA testing done that supports the conclusion that the procreation problems were due to inbreeding”.

            Suggesting that inbreeding may have played an important role in the introgression is not suggesting that Haldane’s rule is not at play.

      • waldemar2010

        PS: That link you provide points to “Haldane’s rule”. And exactly that is what I am referring to. Now if Haldane’s law applies to Neanderthal-Human admixture, that would be because we can safely consider the both more that just subspecies, which can successfully interbreed without issues.

        It would also give us a possibility to explain three things at once: The demise of the Neanderthals, the oddness of Oase 1 and the absence of Y-DNA and mtDNA of Neanderthal lineages among modern peoples.

        We know that at the start of the Aurignacian Oase 1 existed, at one crucial site near one of the few traversable ports – the Danube port – through the mountain ranges surrounding Transsylvania. We also know that there is an old culture north of the Alps, called the Bohuncian. The latter found in Bohemia.

        Suppose the latter has had only one short war like encounter with Neanderthals. Hunter-gatherer tribal societies all over the world have been known to raid other tribes for women. Let’s assume that this raiding happened and that some women were raped and others taken to Neanderthal tribes, who were patrilocal. Maybe counter raids took some women back. In that case only AMH (Anatomically Modern Human) mothers with hybrid pregnancies would be among AMH tribes. No Neanderthal mothers or fathers among the AMH tribes. Of the offspring only the girls would procreate. That would account for both the absence of Neanderthal Y-DNA (Haldane’s rule) and mtdna (only AMH mothers).

        Mind you. That is just a scenario. Any scenario where only AMH mothers pregnant of Neanderthal fathers would stay with AMH tribes would do. Just explaining that that scenario is quite conceivable.

        This happened far more east than Israel. D-stats always prefer Altai Neanderthal over Caucasus and Balkan in modern populations. The adverse effects of the Haldane rule were strongly selected against in the next generations and soon fertility issue causing genes were driven out. This group of people again flourished. (As flourishing went in those days, mind you)

        Now the flow that comes via the Levant does it differently. They do intermarry. The gene flow between them is not an occasion but a tradition. Recall that even if you remove the most recent Neanderthal ancestor Oase 1 has far more Neanderthal ancestry than us, or eastern upper paleolithic examples. We also know that some Neanderthal finds of jaw bones (checked to be Neanderthal with mtDNA) in Italy show some AMH feature. This looks like admixture went both ways.

        The Levant migrants colonized the Balkans and Italy to form the Uluzzian culture. The Bohuncians the areas north of the Alps. The Ulluzians suffered from constant hybridization fertility issues (Haldane’s rule again) which caused the demise of BOTH Neanderthal tribes and Oase-1 like AMH tribes. The Bohuncians survived the latest cold attack and repolulated Europe afterwards: Kostenki 14 from the Don river shows great affinity with Loschbour.

        This is my private theory.

        No matter what: The shunning of the X chromosome basically proves Neanderthals and AMH were farther apart than subspecies. The were different species. Haldane’s rule shows that.

        • Clinton Hall

          Actually, “the shunning of the X chromosome” has not been proven. Not enough evidence or testing has emerged yet to say either way. Oases 1 was isolated as were all Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA specimens that have been found to date. Migration during certain periods of the Pleistocene ice age non existent. Most of these individuals were extremely segregated supported by their DNA that showed high markers for inbreeding. By the time of the final migration out of Africa, the total number of adult aged Neanderthal breeders was probably as low as 3,000. Keep in mind, the Pleistocene ice age was still going strong and numbers were still dropping. It is VERY wrong to assume that the lack of evidence found in mtDNA or X chromosomes proves Neanderthal was a different species, and can be no more certain than simple dilution over generations or genetic drift. In fact, I think with the recent release of the complete Neanderthal genome, new evidence will soon be shared to disprove your mistaken “theory”.

      • mmmdot

        “However, the fact that the DNA of Europeans is more similar to Neanderthal DNA than to Africans clearly dismisses the notion of separate species”

        What in the f**k? Do really let racists post this hateful drivel all over your blog unimpeded? If you care about stopping racism, why allow a blatant who racist clearly belongs on Storm front (like this creep) troll everyone in this commentary section who doesn’t his fanatical and insecurity laden racist “theories” about humanity?

      • Ummm, I’m not at all sure why the original comment, questioning the notion of separate Neandertal-AMH species boundaries is classified as racist, although it may be that this particular thread went on too long.

  • Clinton Hall

    Latest research has determined Neanderthal DNA 99.5% identical to modern human DNA. Completely separate research into the DNA of modern humans shows that, on average, all modern humans DNA is 99.5% identical. Some races have a greater diversity than .5%. What this proves is that Neanderthals and some modern human races are more alike than some modern human races.
    As I see it, we have two main problems that are causing so much confusion and conflict. First, the paleoanthropologist community seems more focused on discovering new species than getting it right. After all, finding the remains of a 40,000 year old modern human is not nearly as gratifying as discovering a new species. Remember Cro-Magnon man? Turns out he was no different than a modern day Olympic runner and was thus renamed early-modern human. All I can say is thank God for DNA testing. Now we can dismiss these quacks that want to make up new species because the remains of a man might look a little different than the cookie-cutter model they use to compare it to. Please go do some looking around at images of people alive today. The variations in cranial bone formations, chins, jaws, eye brow ridges, cheek bones, eye sockets, foreheads, even limb and torso lengths found in people alive today are far more diverse than anything labeled a species since Home erectus.
    The second problem is Racism. People are so concerned with being offended, they refuse to consider any opinion or data that might be construed as offensive or racists. I know for the sake of getting along, we should say that race is only skin deep but that is not very scientific. Races evolved due to the different environments we lived in. Like all life, we adapt to fit our environment. Different climates and dietary supplements lead to differences in our size, shape, appearance, and even intelligence. It’s time to stop the insanity, recognize race as just a byproduct of our environment and stop trying to separate ourselves from other peoples like the Neanderthals and the Denisovans. After all, they were just as human as the rest of us. DNA doesn’t lie!

    • waldemar2010

      Chimps and humans share 98% of their DNA. Mice and humans 97.5%. To put this into perspective.

      • Clinton Hall

        How is that relevant? Researchers have found diversities between living human races as much as 0.7%. On average, the modern human genome is 99.5% identical across races. The fact I stated was that the Neanderthal genome only has a 0.5% variant from modern humans. Some races are slightly more similar and others slightly less, such as those peoples of the Savannah Africa region. These numbers fall well within the range of DNA variation of modern humans. If a person alive today was found with the exact same DNA as a Neanderthal, I doubt anyone would classify that individual as a separate species. If they did, I think it is safe to say, they would have to start classifying other races as separate species that showed an equal or greater diversity in their genome.

        • waldemar2010

          Let’s start this discussion by links to the relevant papers and articles. Show me.

  • Henry Polk

    Neanderthal’s mother was not human, you don’t become more human by mixing with something that isn’t human.

  • Sak

    Denisovans and Their Discontents: That article reads to me as if author(s), not sure who they are, are attempting in claim the ‘moral high ground’ on this discussion on Denisovans/Neanderthals and modern humans. Such emotional/political laden words are used such as, ‘racism’, ‘racist’ and other like laden words, in a scientific context. Such ‘better than thou’ attitude can only stifle scientific discussion and investigation by belittling sincere investigators… typical academia.